Frank’s Fax Facts and Reviews

Vol. XVIII, No. 54

Sunday, March 17, 2013                                                                                            

Happy Saint Patties Day

        My stay in Ann Arbor, Michigan was made a lot more enjoyable, thanks to the most Irish person I had ever met: and who remains that after al these years. My sister, Josephine, never could admit that she was Italian, and for years tried to make the rest of us believe that we were (by some really weird dreaming on her part) at least a third French! I’ll admit, being Italian, as well as Roman Catholics, caused me many unpleasant experiences, especially during WW2. But I didn’t feel a lot of difference with that third of my body being French (which I have always looked down on, especially with respect to music. After all, most musical forms including Sonatas, Cantatas, Masses, etc. originated right there!)

        Anyway, Josephine was stubborn as a mule. This was a characteristic that we all shared: but hers was greater than the rest of us (which might have been due to the fact that she was blind, twice in her childhood). She persevered and managed to contact the church in Syracuse, NY where our newly born mother was christened. They sent her a copy of Mama’s Christening papers, which were barely legible, so old were they, as well as all of it being written by hand, that none of us was sure what it listed as Rose Demore’s mother’s place of birth (that was, of course, our maternal grandmother) George and I were fully agreed that the place of birth was listed as Italy and not Ireland, which Josephine died believing that she was at least a third Irish!

        So, I do not don green shirts, pants, of any other of “The Green” on March 17th.

        But dear, sweet Pat Donahue did! He also introduced Green Beer (which flowed like a river, in Ann Arbor on that day), and a few other green objects which I have conveniently forgotten.


Old Movie Review

Topaze (1933)

This utter waste of time left me fascinated with its underwhelming plot, poor acting and sheer nonsense in general! A very young John Barrymore is the star of the mess, and how he was ever dubbed as being a great actor, I will never understand! In this disaster (which was so bad I kept watching, thinking it HAD to get better or else they would not have released it. And it did not. Its sole asset is the presence of a young and delightful Myrna Loy,

In all fairness I hereby print Leonard Maltin’s’ review:

“Delightful filmed version of Marcel Pagnol’s about an impeccably honest but naïve schoolteacher in France, who  unwinningly becomes a dupe for wealthy baron’s business scheme.” And he gave it THREE stars!


Draft Dodgers Anonymous

Operas and Karksruhe

I have already written about the Puzfraue who bought my army-issued cigarettes. She was small, but kept my library looking as neat as a pen. She had knowledge of operas that were very impressive to me. One morning, as we were finishing her buying my government-issued cigarettes (oh, how those Germans did love those poisons!) and she asked if I were acquainted with Verdi’s Nabucco. I had never even heard of such a work before, and I very much doubted that she had gotten either the composer or the name of the opera, itself, all wrong. She had it perfectly correct, I found to my amazement the first time I had a complete list of operas to check: Nabucco, opera in four acts, by Giuseppe Verdi, etc.

After that, I did not take her knowledge of music in general, and opera in specific for granted. And I more than simply agree with her that the main reason most of my friends (no joke) despise opera is because they do not see how wonderful most of the plots are. In my own case, I had driven to New Orleans with Milfred Valentine (who was to play “The Ghost” in my setting of Oscar Wilde’s The Canterville Ghost to get him a costume to wear the following week, at the performance of the chamber opera.) After we had rented the costume, I suggested that he go with me to a performance of Mozart’s opera, The Marriage of Figaro. I had seen it once, much earlier, but it was sung in Italian (which is the language Mozart used originally). I had no idea, until we were sitting there, laughing out loud at the recitatives, or spoken song, lightly accompanied with orchestral chords or motifs, that these would be sung in English (as was the entire wonderful comic opera!) I had been rather bored, the first time I saw it, because I had no idea what they were jabbering about. But, when done in English, it is extremely risqué and hilariously naughty! Mozart was noted for this.

Now, this is but one story about why people can enjoy an opera (even though I had seen a remarkable version the first time, this was at least twice as much fun!

I asked my student on the way back to Ellisville, “Aren’t you glad I didn’t write The Canterville Ghost in Italian?” And he agreed with me.


That was the only full Opera Season I was able to attend while in Karlsruhe, because the season ran from early autumn through Easter. But, the first opera I saw there was an early work by Verdi, himself, called Aroldo (which I presume is like Harold in English. At this point in my life, I had seen (at best) only two other real opera productions (one was Tristan and Isolde of Wagner, with the Pope family, who took me along on a dream-filled weekend in New Orleans. We had the rare pleasure of hearing Kirsten Flagstad in her most famous role: and she was considered the best Isolde in history! But apart from the divinely inspired Liebestod (Love Death) it was the most boring thing called Opera that I have ever suffered through!

When I learned that Karlsruhe had opera houses (one for Grand Opera and the other for Opera Comique- which can include any work that has parts that are not sung.)

Karlsruhe had a magnificent opera, but all that remained of it when I arrived, were some still magnificent looking ruins. I was informed that British bombers had destroyed the building, I felt better knowing it had not been the US pilots.

3. Because I arrived in February, I got to see the remainder of that season’s repertoire, but after the brief summer, the another full season began.

The productions were totally fine! I never saw anything that was amateurish or anything except completely professional. Their leading soprano was worthy of the Met, and most of the men had wonderful voices. Other than that first opera I had seen there, I can remember only so many others. Somewhere in this house, I have programs from everything I saw while in the service: Dear Josephine was the one who stressed that it will seem like a dream, when it is over. And she could not have been more concise. I saved not only programs, but anything tangible! German candy wrappers and movie posters (Gone With the Wind played over a year at the biggest cinema in Karlsruhe, and when I took Helmut to see it, he cried like a baby. I asked why he thought the American story had made almost as much love as it had here, in 1939, and he said, “Frank, you don’t understand: after the war, we had nothing! Everything we loved was gone! To us, we are all Scarlett O’Haras!”  Well, touched as I was, I could not resist reminding him that they were the ones than started that ball to rolling!

But, again I got carried away!

Another wonderful benefit of being in on a season of operas in Germany could be so refreshing for someone like me!

Perhaps it was because they were a much smaller opera company than most American ones, but the operas in their repertoire were what was (at that time) considered unworthy of being re-vamped for audiences of that particular time. Consequently, I was thrilled to see Eugene O’Negan (Yevgeny Onyegin) by Tchaikovsky, His operas were right up there with his Symphonies, piano concerti, Tone Poems and Ballets; to me, it sounded like an opera that Chopin might have penned.

That first season had another first for me: Richard Strauss’s Arabella. This was something that (to my knowledge) had never been staged in the USA, This was true of much of the seasons with which I was connected. I saw my first performance of Joan of Ark at the Stake which was performed by no less an actress than Vera Zorina!

When I finally left Germany, the hardest things for me to leave were my special friend, Helmut and the opera’s Exquisite list of operas for the next season. These were (as usual) operas I would (still) die to see; even one by Handel!

To be continued



Cat Naps

“He seems the incarnation of everything that is soft and silky and velvety without a sharp edge in his composition; a dreamer whose philosophy is Sleep and let sleep.”.

Saki (H. H. Munro)


Old Movis Trivia Quiz #74

1.                       Which WB dancer­­­-and tough guy was in Doctorow’s Rag Time?

2.                       Who played “Annie Oakley”  and what was the name of the film?

3.                       Doris Day, also, played a similar western part in the film which featured the song, “Once I had a Secret Love”.

4.                       She was the star who was called the “It” girl. Think silent films,

5.                       Clark Gable was about to wed which lovely leading lady when she was killed: doing what?

6.                       The --------and Mrs. Muir” (complete the title)

7.                       They were the favorite married couple solving crimes in MGM comedies. Hint, they had a dog named Asta.

8.                       Back Street, made into 2 different films, was based on a book by whom?

9.                       A version of Sadie Thompson, by W. Somerset Maugham starred which gorgeous redhead (Miss Sadie Thompson)

10.                  Who was the handsome, raspy-voiced, blond actor in God’s Little Acre, Miss Sadie Thompson” and Pat and Mike?       



Old Movie Trivia Quiz #73

1.                    Barbara Stanwyck played Stella Dallas in the original version of this film?

2.                    Bette Midler reprised the role last.

3.                    In Tootsie, Dustin Hoffman chose to work in drag because he was unable to get a male lead.

4.                    Henry Fonda played Young Abe Lincoln?

5. `         Abe Lincoln in Illinois was the title of RKO’s 1939 film.

6.           Daniel Day-Lewis’s film, The Last of the Mohicans was based on a James Fennimore Cooper novel.

7.   Whoopy Goldberg’s  first movie was The Color Purple.

       8.       Danny Glover  played her husband in the same film,

       9.    This Spielberg film won 0 Oscars. What a rip off!

         10.      Oprah Winfree, “Richest woman in America” TV star was also introduced with The Color Purple?



Sunday, March 17, 2013